FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Krishna Stone | 212.367.1016
New York, NY — In a heart wrenching reversal, the New York State Senate decided yesterday that it is okay for thousands of low income HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) clients to continue to pay upwards of 70 percent of their income toward rent and live on less than $12 per day. This dollar amount has changed little since the 1980's. At the same time, this shortsighted decision maintains the status quo that now results in wasteful spending during a fiscal crisis. The State and City spend more on rent arrears and emergency housing placements among HASA clients who lose their homes than they would if they adopted a rent cap. A rent cap would limit rent payments to 30% of a HASA client's income. (HASA is the New York City agency tasked with expediting access to essential benefits and social services needed by persons living with AIDS).
HASA's rental assistance program is the only low-income housing program of its kind in New York that does not provide an affordable housing protection thereby unfairly targeting some of the most vulnerable people in our state. Nearly nine out of 10 low-income people living with HIV/AIDS enrolled in HASA are African-American and/or Latino, and the risk of becoming homeless is a major threat to their health and wellbeing. The rent cap bill would have resulted in Medicaid cost savings while making HASA's affordability consistent with standards set by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Additionally, the current policy results in high rates of housing loss and forces individuals to make difficult decisions such as paying rent over paying for other expenses such as seeing a doctor, co-payments for life-saving medication, or groceries.
"Today's reversal by the New York State Senate is fiscally and ethically irresponsible and a blow to low-income people living with HIV/AIDS," said Marjorie Hill, PhD, Chief Executive Officer of Gay Men's Health Crisis. "To quote Senator Tom Duane, 'Right now...the poorest of the poor and the sickest of the sick are the ones going to be so negatively impacted by this.' The decision is especially painful because it means that many of the clients we see each day, who are struggling to maintain their housing, will continue to grapple with decisions that no New Yorker should have to make. Thousands of HASA clients will be forced to live in limbo with no stable place to call home. The decision is a grossly missed opportunity to improve HIV prevention in New York State as studies have shown that stable housing is a cornerstone of solid HIV prevention strategy."
Housing stability is the foundation for a strong and effective response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in New York. Research has shown that stable housing is essential for promoting adherence to medication and reducing HIV transmission.
"We thank Senator Duane for all of his hard work and dedication to people living with HIV/AIDS," added Dr. Hill. "Like Senator Duane, GMHC will continue to fight for New York to do the right thing by looking out for our state's most vulnerable."
GMHC is a not-for-profit, volunteer-supported and community-based organization committed to national leadership in the fight against AIDS. We provide prevention and care services to men, women and families that are living with, or affected by, HIV/AIDS in New York City. We advocate for scientific, evidence-based public health solutions for hundreds of thousands worldwide.